Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wisconsin River Forest Unit

I'm going to dub this our "Spooky Carcass Hike." (WARNING: Graphic images below)

I was really looking forward to checking out this new hiking trail I researched late last week because it's only 8 miles North of Wausau's East side and follows along a portion of the Wisconsin River - water frontage is always a plus when you're hiking with a part-Lab dog!

We headed North on County Hwy W and almost missed the turn onto Pine Bluff Rd. The dirt/gravel drive into the parking area was pot-holed and half covered in ice and snow, but still passable without needing four-wheel-drive. As I pulled off the road to park, I noticed tufts of gray fur blowing around: an ominous sign. I let Charlie jump out as I loaded up the backpack with hiking essentials and when I turned around to see where she was, I found her sniffing a deer carcass!

Charlie was obviously worried about what she had found and continued being hesitant and skittish. Upon further investigation, there were several carcasses that had been dumped in and around the parking lot area, as well as unidentifiable animal body parts strewn across the entire parking area - probably scavenged by local wildlife. The smell of death was noticeable.

It appeared that the body parts were only around the parking area, so we continued down to the path. I don't know if it's because of what we saw at the head of the trail, but the entire hike was creeping me out. The caw of the crows made my spine tingle and every snap of a twig sent me twirling around to see who was there. I was spooked.

Charlie, however, had shaken off what we had found and was ready to go! She was very excited to be scouting new territory and took off ahead of me. I kept calling her to "COME!" because I didn't want her getting too far ahead; I wasn't sure what (or who) we were going to find. I think she was getting a bit frustrated with me though.

The terrain is very uneven and I was having a hard time watching my footing, holding onto my camera and keeping an eye on Charlie all at the same time. I tripped and slipped quite a few times, but luckily didn't fall. The constant hum of the traffic on nearby Hwy 51 was annoying and I kept hearing occasional gunshots - possibly from the nearby quarry?

The Wisconsin River is always high this time of year from the snow-melt, and this lowland area is obviously in part of the river's flood zone. Charlie got herself stuck in some ice-crusted mud and slopped around for a bit before being able to extract herself. She looked a little surprised at the feeling of being *stuck.*

She was having a wonderful time romping through the snow-and-leaf-strewn path, leaping over logs and sloshing around in the icy water; completely unaware of how spooked I still was. We came across some other "dead things" along the path... scattering of bird feathers, breastbone of something, smooshy black pile of something, and I couldn't shake the feeling of death all around me.

We arrived at the end of the trail sooner than I had thought we would. It wasn't the "actual" end of the trail, but the flooding had crept up enough to cover a wide swath of land and was impassable for now. We turned back and retraced our steps to the parking lot... which was a good thing because the snow was starting to come down pretty good by then.

We'll plan on checking out the other loop of trail when the snow melts a little more. That section of trail looked too snow-covered and there were no footprints to follow. Maybe the deer will be a bit more decomposed (or removed) by the time we return.

Happy Hiking!